Starting a new job is never easy, but starting a new teaching job in the middle of a pandemic should certainly be listed as one of those things that is so difficult is is not recommended for anyone even remotely sane.
In the weeks leading up to the start of the school year, as I endured hours of new teacher orientation meetings that seemed more focused on nonproductive use of time than truly orienting new staff to anything useful, like fire drills, referral policies, or even the location of our classrooms, I became increasingly discouraged with each passing day. I was not prepared for this. I felt alone. There was no indication of staff support. None of my questions were being answered.
The start of the school year didn’t bring much relief. I started the school year with even more unanswered questions and more anxiety to go along with it.
In a text conversation with my mom, she reminded me:
As I’ve been thinking and praying for you, I’ve thought about all the hard things you have done in the past:
– Went to Tanzania by yourself
– Battled malaria, dengue fever, tick-borne virus, and others while in a foreign country
– Rode your bicycle across the country
– Studied and graduated with honors throughout all your schooling
– Convinced your dad to buy you a horse (I still don’t know how you did that!) then trained that horse (and others) while running a business
– Became a professional mountain biker while maintaining two jobs
– Were the oldest of four “hooligans”
– Moved to Roanoke and established a new home, community, and job
You CAN do hard things…and prayerfully you will be able to look back on the evidence of God’s goodness in your life as you go through the trial of learning the ropes and starting at this new school, too!
As the weeks have slipped past, I’ve given it some thought (and tears). But I’ve realized that the “hardness” of this thing is exacerbated by the fact that teaching through a pandemic is hard for everyone: admin, teachers, and students. When admin are faced with constantly-changing guidelines from state and local health departments, an ever-revolving list of students ill and quarantined, and the normal, everyday demands of running a school, it is no surprise that checking in with and giving guidance to new employees falls by the wayside. When teachers are themselves struggling to stay above the water of attendance, grades, virtual staff meetings, virtual parent meetings, virtual classes, and the many other mental and emotional demands of teaching, expecting them to befriend or support a new co-worker seems unreasonable. Students, too, are faced with nearly overwhelming odds: they are expected to keep up with work while wearing masks, remaining socially distanced, enduring days or weeks of quarantine (and working from home while quarantined), and yet somehow develop mentally, emotionally, and socially. Patience and tolerance are being stripped thin all around, yet somehow, everyone involved in this is being expected to do hard things–and lots of them.
And of course, I have not made things any easier on myself. In addition to starting a new teaching job, I am working part-time at Cardinal Bicycle after school and on weekends, training between 11-20 hours a week, walking my dog (less than I would like to), eating, sleeping (also less than preferred), and throwing in the added demands of writing sponsor request letters, teaching myself algebra, and building community in a new city. I have back-to-back races coming up and four weekends straight of out-of-state travel–and have I mentioned that I’M TIRED? LOL. Seriously though.
I don’t hold any illusions in being alone in this state of feeling overwhelmed by the hard things facing me in this season. By comparison, these hard things are easy. I received news today that a dear friend’s husband passed away from brain cancer (and they are only a bit older than myself!). My family is healthy. I am healthy. Seth is healthy. I have a place to live and a job and food. I even have bikes!
There is no magic pill to making the hard things disappear. But I do believe there are a few things that can alleviate the burden:
1. Be grateful.
Just being grateful for the little things can make an incredible difference in our attitudes, even in the midst of feeling like we are being crushed. Note the sunrise. Note the relaxing dinner. Note the one class that seemed to engage just a tiny bit. Celebrate the little things
2. Accept the present.
Know that hard things are a part of life. If it is not one hard thing, it is something else. Instead of spending energy wishing we were somewhere else or facing something different, accept that we are in this place here and now.
There is plenty of research supporting that idea that simply smiling has a positive affect on our mind and emotions (which I, of course, did not make the effort to look up and quote here). So, smile. It makes everything feel just a little bit easier.
4. Embrace community.
My community certainly looks a little different. Many of my old friendships are now “virtual” and long-distance, but I have still been incredibly encouraged by them during these past months. A short phone call to check in, an Instagram message, a text–all of it can lift your spirits (and theirs!). Don’t be afraid to reach out and tell someone you’re struggling. There is power in vulnerability and being there for each other. At the same time, I’ve benefited from making time to embrace my new community. A group ride here and there, even if I’m feeling burnt out and antisocial, can lift the spirits and make a training ride seem easier than it would be alone.
And for me, #5. Organize. So maybe I’m a bit OCD, but planning everything out days and weeks in advance helps me “control the crazy.” If it somehow fits into a schedule in my head, then it makes it seem just a little bit overwhelming. Sure, my Google Calendar and Reminders look like a clown exploded in colorful confetti, but that just means my brain feels a little bit less like spaghetti.
And #6. Keep Pressing On.
This too shall pass.